STEM GLAM GALLERY: Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family, in Shrewbury, Western England. Ever since he was young, he had a strong interest in nature and fond of fishing, riding, hunting, and gathering insects. His father’s (a physician) disencouragement about his interests pushed him to attend medical school. However, he eventually dropped out after realizing that the sight of blood was boring and terrifying. After that, he attended the Cambridge University, where he became a proficient naturalist.
After graduation at the Christ’s college, Cambridge University, he was chosen to become a partner of ship captain, Robert FitzRoy of HMS Beagle. There, he started his epic 5-year voyage, and explored and collected thousands plants and animals. Noticing how diverse and varied in traits his collected specimen are, he proposed one main mechanism by which the organisms are evolved, “natural selection.”
His three main observations are central to his famous proposal of natural selection. First, he noticed organisms show different features and traits between different populations. And these traits are usually heritable, that is, it can be passed from generation to generation. However, the extent that different organisms produce their offsprings in a certain environment is beyond its sustainability and ability to support all individuals. That lead different organisms to compete each other for survival and reproduction. As a result, some will stay and some will die. From those findings, he developed a theory that organism evolve by “natural selection”: organisms with adapted traits that are better suited to a given environment will be able to survive and reproduce more than less adapted organisms.
Interestingly enough, even though he drew his revolutionary theory on evolution in 1836 after his 5- year voyage, he did not publish it to public until after he met Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist who came up to him with the same findings and theory after 20 years. Concerned about attack and disagreements about his theory, Darwin didn’t dare to reveal it to public and kept it secret. Meanwhile, Wallace who ended up with the same theory and explanation, first shared it to Darwin for second opinion. Darwin was surprised and shocked of such a coincidence. In 1859, he finally published a book “ On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection,” which became one of the most prominent books of all time. Everyone agreed on that Darwin was the first who came up with this theory of evolution. Even Wallace appreciated and gave credit to Darwin by writing a book about evolution and naming it “Darwinism.”
Reece, Jane B, and Neil A. Campbell. Campbell Biology. Boston: Benjamin Cummings/ Pearson, 2011. Print